Occupational Therapist (OT) Certificate

What is an Occupational Therapist (OT)?

An occupational therapist (OT) is trained in the practice of occupational therapy. An occupational therapist works with a client to help them achieve a fulfilled and satisfied state of life.

They help patients improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working environments, working with individuals who suffer from a mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling condition.

Occupational Therapy is about helping people do the day-to-day tasks, sustain themselves, and enable them to contribute to the wider community.

Occupational therapists use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of their patients. The therapist helps clients not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also to compensate for permanent loss of function. The goal is to help clients have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.

Occupational therapists help clients to perform all types of activities, from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as cooking, eating and dressing.

Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and dexterity.

Other activities may be chosen to improve visual acuity or the ability to discern patterns. Occupational therapists also use computer programs to help clients improve abstract-reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, and perceptual skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and coordination—all of which are important for independent living.

Patients with permanent disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy often need special instruction to master daily tasks.

Some occupational therapists treat individuals whose ability to function in a work environment has been impaired. These practitioners might arrange employment, evaluate the work space, plan work activities, and assess the client’s progress.

Occupational therapists may work exclusively with individuals in a particular age group or with a particular disability.

Occupational therapists need strong interpersonal skills and patience to inspire trust and respect in their clients. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities to individual needs are assets. Those working in home healthcare services also must be able to adapt to a variety of settings.

What are the Job Responsibilities of an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists are responsible for development, implementation, and coordination of the occupational therapy program.

On a typical day an occupational therapist will:

  • use physical exercises to help patients increase strength and dexterity
  • use computer programs to help clients improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, problem-solving, memory, sequencing, coordination, and perceptual skills
  • develop computer-aided adaptive equipment and teach clients with severe limitations how to use that equipment in order to communicate better and control various aspects of their environment
  • assist clients in performing activities of all types
  • use activities to help patients improve visual acuity and the ability to discern patterns
  • design or make special equipment needed at home or at work

What education is required to become an Occupational Therapist?

Those pursing a career as an occupational therapist typically need a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university.

In addition to a degree, occupational therapists must also attend an academic program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in order to take the a certification exam.

In 2009, there were 150 accredited master’s degree programs or a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree. Four doctoral degree programs were also accredited. The majority of schools have full-time programs, but there are some that offer weekend and part-time programs as well that could allow you to work full time while obtaining your degree.

Coursework in occupational therapy programs include the physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as the application of occupational therapy theory and skills.

All accredited programs require at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork.

Those considering becoming an Occupational Therapist should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, physics, health, art, and the social sciences. College admissions offices look favorably on paid or volunteer work in the healthcare field.

Relevant undergraduate majors include biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, liberal arts, and anatomy.

All 50 states regulate the practice of Occupational Therapy. To obtain a license to practice, applicants must graduate from an accredited education program and pass a national certification examination. Specific eligibility requirements for licensure vary by State, but usually consists the of National Board of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Exam.

Some states have additional requirements for therapists who work in early intervention programs or schools. These requirements may include education-related classes, an education practice certificate, or early intervention certification.

Some states require continued education to maintain licensure.

What is the average salary for an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists earned an average salary of $67,920 in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The highest pay goes to those who work in medical offices, nursing care facilities, and hospitals. Those that work in schools earn less.

Hourly Rate Report (United States)